Willmar council focuses on housing
WILLMAR -- The deteriorating condition of some Willmar housing was on the minds of City Council members during a weekend planning retreat. Among goals set by council members for the next several years will be appointment of a task force to review...
WILLMAR -- The deteriorating condition of some Willmar housing was on the minds of City Council members during a weekend planning retreat.
Among goals set by council members for the next several years will be appointment of a task force to review current housing standards and to make recommendations for any changes to policy and enforcement.
The task force goal received support from all council members because there has been considerable discussion in the community about the appearance of some housing in certain sections of Willmar.
Mayor Les Heitke thinks many citizens are making it pretty clear to council members that the standards are slipping.
"I think the council is listening to that very carefully, and their action at this retreat is to revisit the ordinances and standards for all housing, and especially for rental housing, to see if they need to be rewritten or modified to bring more of the exterior problems back into alignment,'' Heitke said in an interview after the retreat.
The glaring problem that Heitke said he's heard many times is the issue of people parking in their front yards, which is seen to be very disruptive to the appearance of any individual neighborhood.
Heitke said the housing task force goal and others goals are very consistent with much of the discussion that the council has heard over the last number of months.
Heitke said the retreat helps council members spend a large amount of time together to consolidate their thinking and to listen to questions and perspectives from individual council members as the council shapes and hones local issues and work plans.
Heitke said retreat leader Carl Neu of Lakewood, Colo., will prepare a report on the findings, discussion and consolidation of the goals. The report will become the work plan for the council and city staff to continue moving forward in the development and management of the city.
"The issue becomes can we keep all the issues on the table at the same time,'' said Heitke. "What happens is the council begins to set priorities, and we also have to look very carefully at how to fund the different priorities and projects as we have discussed and outlined.''
A majority of council members supported an analysis of city government office space needs.
Heitke said the city has been steadily growing and City Hall is crowded.
"You can't have growth in the city without a certain amount of accompanying staff growth, whether it's for engineering work, building inspection work or financial work,'' he said.
"We also know that perhaps the school district is very crowded, and there will be some discussions as we analyze our facilities, space and staffing needs about whether or not the city should begin to look at some kind of a joint effort with the school district, perhaps for a new site for government operations,'' he said.
Other top goals are:
* Complete the process for construction of the wastewater treatment plant.
* Create railroad crossing quiet zones and build a railroad "loop'' west of Willmar by 2010.
* Complete the first phase of development of the industrial park in the former airport and initiate planning for later phases.
Secondary goals are:
* Analyze staffing needs.
* Reconstruct seven miles of poorly rated streets.
* Bring at least two orthopedic doctors and two heart doctors to Willmar.
* Continue to explore downtown development involving all stakeholders.
* Adopt a plan for the power plant and district heating system.
* Complete the Grass Lake and storm water improvement project.
* Complete the southeast Willmar surface transportation system.
* Build a bridge over U.S. Highway 12 at the County Road 5 intersection.
* Adopt plans and policies to ensure Willmar's low rate of tax.
Council members and city department heads met all day and into the evening Friday and returned Saturday morning for the retreat at the Willmar Conference Center.